AVERSIVE CONDITIONING
An Approach for Minimizing Bear/Human Conflicts

Bears can easily become habituated to human activities. This occurs when bears learn to associate people with food. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bear losing its natural fear of people. Bears are intelligent, opportunistic feeders. They will return to places where they’ve received an easy meal. Human habituated bears can create situations that are dangerous for both humans and bears.

Aversive conditioning is a tool used by DNR to change bear behavior. It provides negative feedback to problem bears. The unpleasant experience will discourage individual bears from repeating undesirable behavior.

Aversive conditioning may include one or more of the following actions applied by trained DNR officials.

  1. Chemical irritant (capsaicin spray) applied at close range to the face of the bear.
  2. The use of noise making pyrotechnics (screamers, explosive scare shells, rockets) fired in the direction of the bear.
  3. Non-lethal rubber projectiles fired from a shotgun at the rump or shoulder of the bear.
Aversive conditioning is an unpleasant experience for the bear. You can help the bear avoid a painful confrontation by following some basic guidelines:
  1. DO NOT feed the bears.
  2. Keep a clean campsite. Dispose of your trash daily. Do not bury your trash or burn food scraps or food containers.
  3. Store your food away from the reach of bears.

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Last updated on February 17, 2004